Stories by Beth Ford Roth
Army Pfc. Jacob H. Wykstra, 21, died May 28, in Kandahar Province of injuries he suffered in what the Defense Department calls an "aircraft accident." The Pentagon did not say if it was the same accident as the May 28 U.S. military helicopter crash in Kandahar Province that killed one NATO soldier and injured three Americans.
Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all who have served in the military, Memorial Day specifically pays tribute to fallen service members. On this day, the father of Navy CTI2 Matthew Bergman, a 21-year-old sailor from the USS Boxer who was lost at sea in 2011, posted an essay he wrote shortly after his son's death.
California teenager Diego Romero is more like a son than a cousin to Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia, a platoon sergeant at Camp Pendleton. So when Diego was diagnosed with leukemia and lost his hair during treatment, Garcia shaved his head as a show of support. And then 19 other Marines in Garcia's platoon shaved their heads to let Diego know that they, too, had his back.
U.S. Marine veteran Andrew Tahmooressi found himself in Tijuana accidentally after missing the last freeway exit in the United States before entering Mexico. After Mexican guards at the border found firearms in his truck, Tahmooressi was thrown in jail on weapons charges. Now, Tahmooressi is giving his first interview from Tijuana's La Mesa Penitentiary since getting locked up March 31.
U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva has signed an NFL rookie free-agent contract to play with the Philadelphia Eagles. The 25-year-old Villanueva played football during his years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, before spending four years in the Army, and earning a Bronze Star during one of his three deployments to Afghanistan.
About 300 Marines departed Sangin District in Helmand province for the final time Sunday, bringing combat operations to a close in what was one of the bloodiest regions of the war in Afghanistan. Camp Pendleton's Darkhorse Battalion lost 25 Marines during its deployment in Sangin between September 2010 and April 2011.